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[IC][Story][Arc 1] Donaldson en Kazakiri
[IC][Story][Arc 1] Donaldson en Kazakiri
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"Donaldson en Kazakiri"

or "The Lay of the Heroes of the Blossom"

(or, to the irreverent, "Rob and Hyoga Go to Hvergelmir")

(or, Rob's sidestory #8)




The sun, the sister | of the moon, from the south
Her right hand cast | over heaven's rim;
No knowledge she had | where her home should be,
The moon knew not | what might was his,
The stars knew not | where their stations were.
– "Voluspo", The Poetic Edda (translated by Henry Adams Bellows)


Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


The Goddesses on duty couldn't hear themselves over all the alarms going off. But they all heard The System Administrator shout out an order they never wanted to hear:

"Quiesce the system!"

Everything went still. Everything. Except for the small pocket of metareality where the Goddesses who were on duty were still frantically trying to undo the damage that had just been done, the entire Metacontinuity was suspended between clock-ticks.

In the management office, the System Administrator - Urd - turned to her sisters. "How do we fix this?"

"What went wrong?" The Programmer - Skuld - asked in exchange.

The Real-Time Monitor - Belldandy - didn't answer immediately. When she did, her voice was grim. "It was Níðhöggr."

"Níðhöggr gnaws at Yggdrasil all the time. What's different this time?"

"It was the solstice on Midgard," Belldandy replied. "The exact second of the solstice."

"A time of change."

Skuld frowned. "A time of potential - and the Níðhöggr virus attacked that potential."

"Leading to either stasis or chaos on Earth until the next solstice." Belldandy shivered in fear.

"Which we could normally work around, but with all our efforts needed to stabilize the Metacontinuity after what Washuu did, that's impossible right now." The telephone rang. Urd put the call on speaker. "Urd here."

"Peorth here. We have a patch, but we estimate it will only hold for eight hours once Yggdrasil is running again. Somebody needs to go into Niflheim and make repairs to Hvergelmir."

"We can't spare anybody here. What kind of repairs?"

"Simple ones. Even a mortal could make them, given a half-hour briefing."

"That's good," Skuld replied while looking at the Yggdrasil monitors. "But what kind of mortal could survive the trip?"

Belldandy reached into the pouch she was carrying and cast the runes. "One who is accustomed to the cold of the world, who keeps himself to himself, who travels to better himself, who leads others from the heart."

Peorth thought for a moment. "So, somebody who Chinese astrologers would call a Wood Dragon, western astrologers would call a Cancer, the rest of Midgard would call a resident of a cold country, and we would call trustworthy. We could find somebody like that in a few seconds if Yggdrasil was running. Do we restart the system to make the search?"

Before Urd could reply, Skuld said, "There's no need. One of our apartment managers matches all of those criteria."

"Bring him here, now. How long can we keep Yggdrasil quiesced before system failure sets in?"

"Just barely less than an hour, by our perception of time here," Belldandy told her older sister.

"Then we'd better hurry. Peorth, take over here! We have a hero to summon!"



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


The Norns completed their ritual. Without the assistance of Yggdrasil, it was a difficult task... but a successful one. Rob Donaldson, still asleep and without any nightwear, appeared in the circle that they surrounded.

"Ew!" Skuld turned away.

Urd quickly magiced some clothing into existence around Rob, and a pair of glasses beside him. He felt the pressure change and woke up. "Wha... Where am I?"

"Welcome to Yggdrasil, Mr. Donaldson."

"Milady Belldandy? Yggdrasil? Am I dead?"

"No, not yet. But we need your help if the entire universe isn't to descend into chaos."



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"So, this Nidhogg virus hit just the wrong memory spot at just the wrong time?"

"That's close enough, considering what humans are able to understand," Skuld replied. "The actuality is different, but the analogy is sound."

Rob nodded. "I expect everything that I sense you doing here is just an analogy that I can grasp."

Skuld turned to Urd. "See! He gets it! I knew he was the right person to call on for help!"

"I also know that the eddas describe journeys of many days or weeks in order to accomplish this sort of task, and we only have a few hours. Will I have a vehicle to cut my travel time down to what we actually have?"

"No, Hel doesn't allow such things in Niflheim."

"Then I'll need a traveling companion who can get us there before your deadline catches up to us."



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


The Norns completed their ritual. Without the assistance of Yggdrasil, it was a difficult task... but a successful one. Hyoga Kazakiri, still asleep and without any nightwear, appeared in the circle that they surrounded.

"Ew!" Skuld turned away.

Urd quickly magiced some clothing into existence around Hyoga, and a pair of glasses beside her. She felt the pressure change and woke up. "Wha... Where am I?"

"Welcome to Yggdrasil, Ms. Kazakiri."

"Woah," Rob muttered. "Deja vu."

Urd looked grim. "We're short on time; we had to re-use some."

"Holy Djelibeybi, Batman," Rob muttered in a tone he hoped the Goddesses couldn't hear.



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"You now have the supplies and the knowledge that we can give you. We will restart Yggdrasil, but duration will not resume on Earth; we'll keep the mortal part of the universe quiesced to protect people from the damage that Níðhöggr did, until either we get a green light on Hvergelmir or Yggdrasil begins to suffer from the quiescense. You'll have... six hours."

"I hope that'll be enough," Hyoga said.

Urd frowned. "It will have to be enough. Once duration is re-started in the Nine Worlds other than Midgard, we will then send you directly to the only point in Niflheim that we can visit uninvited: the gates of Hel. From there, you will be on your own, and the universe's clock will once again be ticking, except on Earth."

Rob took a deep breath to steady his nerves. "Just to confirm: We'll have less than six hours to get to Hvergelmir, make the repairs, and get back. If we fail, the world will suffer either chaos or stasis."

Belldandy smiled. "You can take your time getting back if you're successful."

"And if you fail, you might not want to return," added Urd.

Rob shivered. "Let's not think of that possibility."

"How do we get there?" Hyoga asked.

"Step through here." Urd pushed the big green button on her desk, then gestured to a door that wasn't there before she pressed the button.

They did so.



Thence rode he down | to Niflhel deep,
And the hound he met | that came from hell.
– "Baldr's Dreams", The Poetic Edda (translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

Niflheim
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


There was a gate behind them, and a gate before them, on the far side of a bridge over the river Gjöll, all rimed with frost. The gate before was guarded by the largest hound either had ever seen, secured on a leash long enough to allow him to cross the bridge. Rob didn't need to be told who the hound was; he'd read that manga story years ago.

"What business have a mortal and a half-made angel in this place?" asked the hound, with a voice that invoked all the fears of all the beings ever chased by all the unleashed hounds of Earth.

Rob steeled his nerves and spoke before Hyoga could react to being called half-made. "Mighty Garm, who guards Hel's gateway, we seek only to travel beside the river Gjöll and the walls of your mistress's realm. Our quest bids us make haste to Hvergelmir; we do not seek to pass through Hel's gate at this time."

"You stink of the Entwiners of Fate, mortal, but not of the single Norn who most recently exiled me from Midgard to return to my accustomed station here." He cocked his head, as if listening. "My mistress Hel has sensed what Níðhöggr did. You may pass now. I will decide whether you may pass again when... no, if you return. But be thee told, mortal: it will take thee nine times nine days to walk the length of the walls of Hel's domain."

Rob nodded. "O best of hounds, we take our leave upon those words."

"Then go, and do what you must, mortal."

As soon as they were out of Garm's sight, Hyoga took her FUSE=Kazakiri form, took Rob into her arms, and took flight.

In nine by nine minutes, they had left Hel's domain far behind. Hyoga stopped to rest, at which point Rob uncovered his face so that they could talk properly. "I haven't traveled that fast since the last time I flew, and that was in an airplane."

"I'm sorry that I didn't serve coffee during the flight." Hyoga grinned.

Rob grinned back. "I didn't get coffee on that flight, either. It was a private plane that I had hired so I could take some aerial photos. Speaking of coffee..." He pulled from his pocket the thermos that Skuld had lent him.

"Yes, please. But just enough to moisten my mouth. I don't have a digestive system; don't waste supplies on me."

Rob filled a small cup, drank half of its contents, passed it to Hyoga, then accepted it back and drank what she didn't. "Ready to go again?"

"Almost. By the time you've put the coffee away and readjusted your balaclava, I'll be ready."

And she was as good as her word.



Jötunheimr
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"Mighty Fárbauti, who sits upon the throne of the Jötnar, why do we not challenge this mortal and his companion who intrude in the realms beyond Midgard?"

"Good Brimir, their quest benefits Men, Dvergr, Jötnar, Vanir, and Æsir equally. If they fail, we must needs carry out their quest ourselves, and we have not the time. Bide thy time; there will be time enough to challenge them should they choose to attempt to return to Midgard."



There Nithhogg sucked | the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; | would you know yet more?
– "Voluspo", The Poetic Edda (translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

Niflheim
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


They had traveled at Hyoga's best speed for three hours, following the snow-clad banks of the river Gjöll upstream for the entire distance. Hyoga had been careful to remain on the side of the living, not the side of the dead, even when the river's flow shrunk to a stream, then to the merest brook meandering along a vast riverbed.

They had reached Hvergelmir.

Rob saw the hart called Eikthyrnir standing over the well, eating tender shoots from Yggdrasil's branches. Water fell from its horns into Hvergelmir.

Hyoga saw the celestial being called Eikthyrnir hovering over the well, trimming potential-but-stillborn alternate universes from Yggdrasil's branchings of reality. Potentiality fell from its form into Hvergelmir.

They compared notes. Eikthyrnir ignored them.

"I wonder what Eikthyrnir is really doing," Rob said.

"And how Hvergelmir is really being filled," Hyoga added. "Now that you've described it, I can see what you're seeing."

"You're one up on me, then. I guess I just don't have the ability to see the universe the way an angel can. Okay, I see a pool there, and somehow I know it's Hvergelmir. There's a bare trickle of water flowing from it, and a puddle of water over here." Rob gestured as he spoke, pointing things out.

"I can work with that description. What do you see over here?" Hyoga motioned to Rob.

"A wall around the pool, but some stones have been knocked asunder and some of the water is leaking out, filling that puddle. Just out of curiosity, what do you see?"

"A paradigm of concepts surrounding potentiality that flows into actuality, but some of the concepts have been cast loose and some raw potentiality is just sitting there. Rob, is there a point to asking me what I sense?"

"I guess not. Let's just pretend that what I see is what really is, and get on with the repair work."

Working together, they quickly placed stones upon stones as if they were a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Hyoga located the stones/concepts that belonged together, while Rob carried them back to Hvergelmir and placed them into the wall/paradigm.

"We work well together, pretty lady."

"Don't call me that. I'm not a lady, or even a human, and I'm not pretty."

"You're very pretty, Hyoga. And being a lady is a way of life, not a biological description - at least, that's what I think."

She blushed for a moment, then went back to work.

Finally they were done... but Rob could see that water was still leaking out of the cracks in the wall.

"We need to glaze the wall somehow. If only we had a source of intense heat that we could play over the wall and let the stones glass over, or fuse together."

"Fusing them together would probably be a bad thing, but they do have to have connections between them."

"What's over there?" Rob pointed across what he saw as a small valley. "There doesn't seem to be any snow over there."

Hyoga looked across what she saw as the gap from which all realms arose. She didn't see any fire giants present at their border with the Ginnungagap. "It looks pretty warm over there, yes."

"Maybe we can find something there that's hot enough to do the job."

"I would expect so. Wait here." Without waiting for an argument, Hyoga flew at her top speed across the Ginnungagap. She somehow knew that no mortal could survive that trip, as short as it was. A few moments later, she was back, a glowing stone in her hand. "Don't touch it."

"Urd said that I needed to be the one to repair the well."

"Then take my hands in yours, and guide my actions."

He did, moving Hyoga from side to side in an almost crablike walk. The wall shimmered and became smooth, the stones securely held behind a glaze of molten rock (or, as Hyoga saw it, a mingling of concepts that produced ideas strong enough to withstand the test of time).

Then she tried to open her hands... and could not. "Rob... I can't let go." Hyoga held up the still-hot rock, then cried in pain as she tried and failed once again to force her hands to open from around it.

Rob grabbed a nearby rock and used it to knock the rock from Hyoga's hand. It landed in the puddle, causing the water to turn to steam.

The steam drifted to surround Hyoga. Rob reached into it and tried to pull her out, but encountered nothing where his eyes showed Hyoga standing.

"Don't leave me, pretty lady," he said. "We just met; you're just learning what it's like to be an average person; it can't end now! You have to have a chance at happiness, just like every other person on Earth!"

He ignored the tingling in his arms; the arms that he had reached into the steam with. He'd survive. He was tough. And it was just water, right?

The tingling subsided, as did the steam. It cleared to reveal Hyoga standing there, in human form and as pretty as Rob had ever thought she had been.

"Are you all right?" He rushed to her side.

"I'm fine, I think... but I feel strange."

"Strange?"

"I've never felt this way before." Then her stomach rumbled with hunger.

"You're just hungry... wait. You're hungry. You said you don't have a digestive system."

"I didn't have a digestive system, but... I think I do now." Then she saw herself reflected in the pool of water in Hvergelmir - which she no longer saw as a pool of potentiality. "Is that me?"

"That's you, as pretty as always."

"I've never been that pretty. Have I?"

Rob suddenly remembered his Norse mythology. "Oh, no. Did I... Hyoga, exactly what is on the other side of that valley?"

"That valley is the Ginnungagap, and Muspelheim is on the other side."

"Muspelheim. Niflheim. Steam produced from their meeting. The steam of creation, from which all things in the Nine Worlds were created, if I remember correctly. Did I...?"

"Did you just remake me?"

"Can you shift into your angelic form? I was thinking of you as a person, and every person I've ever known has been human."

"I'll try." Hyoga transformed in front of Rob, into a form which was similar to but more beautiful than FUSE=Kazakiri had ever been.

"Your wings are white now..." Rob said in awe.

"Are they?" She looked at herself in Hvergelmir, only to see the pool of potentiality again. "I'll have to take your word for that; I have my angelic senses back in this form. Oh, and I'm not hungry any more."

"I bet that'll come back when you transform back to... to human, now. I'm sorry, Hyoga."

"Why? I'm not a monster any more." Her smile was the smile of an angel, even though she was now half-human.



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"Systems are showing green again. Do we re-start Midgard?"

Urd shook her head in response to Peorth's question. "Not yet. Give them a chance to return."

"We can't hold Midgard quiesced for much longer without risking system damage."

"Hold for as long as you can! The least we can give our heroes is a shorter absence from their lives that they have to explain."



Niflheim
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"Get up and keep running!"

"I can't!"

"You must! Why did we even land?"

"I was tired!"

"You don't get tired!"

"I do now! I'm human now, remember?"

"Don't take that tone of voice with me!"

"Why not? It's your fault!"

They dodged yet another hail of arrows.

"Ack! Since when do dwarfs use bows?"

"It's 2016! Be happy they don't have esper Skills!"

"Less talk! More running!"

"Less running, more flying!" Hyoga transformed back to her angelic form, grabbed Rob, and took off like an angel out of Hel.



Yggdrasil
10:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


"Urd! We're out of time!"

She sighed. "Do it."



Niflheim
10:45 UTC, December 21, 2016


They took cover behind a ridge as a squad of trolls opened up with AK-47s and unloaded the clips.

"I think I was happier with the bows and arrows."

"So, this is it. I just became human, and now I'm about to die."

"Don't misquote Arthur Dent at me! We're not going to die!"

"Just... kiss me before we're killed. Give me that much happiness. Please?"

Rob remembered his outburst at Hvergelmir. "I can give you that much, at least." He moved in to kiss Hyoga... and stopped as a shadow fell across them. A large shadow.

"You know that such devices are forbidden in the realm of Hel."

The trolls started to panic. "Fafnir! Have mercy!"

"Mercy I have for those who try and fail honourably. Mercy I have not for such as you, who forswear your oaths to Hel." And he flew at them - literally.

After a moment, all was quiet.

"I have no quarrel with you, sons of Men." Rob and Hyoga looked up to see Fafnir perched atop the ridge where they had sheltered. The wyrm took a closer look at them. "If I had known, I would have come to your aid so much the sooner. This dragon offers apologies to another dragon."

Rob stepped back from the ridge, turned, and bowed. "Thou hast my thanks, Fafnir. May I ask, how didst thou kill thine opponents?"

"Why, with my breath, which is poison to all that is mortal. How dost thou survive being in my presence?"

Rob thought for a moment. "I... do not know."

"Yet thou dost survive. Thou art the most durable mortal I have ever met. Now I must take my leave; 'twould be best if you also were to leave this place."

Rob suddenly realized what had happened. He'd survive. He's tough. He'd thought that while reaching into the steam of creation to rescue Hyoga. He wondered whether Hyoga's thoughts had also remade him in any way, the way that his words had remade parts of her.

"We'd better go."



Niflheim
11:29 UTC, December 21, 2016


"Is it safe to stop?"

Rob thought for a moment. "I think so."

Hyoga landed and transformed back to human. "I'm still hungry, and I'm feeling other things, too. Is this an adrenaline rush?"

Rob pulled the thermos of coffee out of his pocket, following it with two granola bars. "This is all we have for food." He passed one of the bars to Hyoga, then poured some coffee into the cup.

"Thank you for the food." They ate while they talked.

"I don't know whether you're feeling an adrenaline rush, Hyoga. Is it wearing off now that we're relatively safe?"

She thought as she chewed. After swallowing, she answered, "No. It's getting stronger. And... and it's getting even stronger when I look at you."

"Oh, dear. Not again."

"What do you mean, 'not again'?"

"You might be feeling one of the most primal emotions a human feels." Rob took a drink of coffee, then passed the cup to Hyoga. "Here."

"But... isn't that an indirect kiss? I couldn't... Oh. Oh, dear."

Rob sighed. "You had no problem sharing this cup with me before you were re-made. Well, that narrows it down to two broad emotions. Are you really sure you want to either love me or lust after me, Hyoga?"

"You're the first man I saw after I became human, Rob; that had to have left a mark. And when you thought the steam of creation was destroying me, you tried to save me; I know you care about me. And I wasn't aware that I had a choice who I could want that way."

"Do me a favour? Think about the other men and boys that you know, and compare them to me."

"Kamijo... he's nice, but if we touch, I'll disappear."

"Not any more."

"Oh, you're right! I'll just become human! But he's a friend, just like Index. Accelerator... somehow, I think it would be wrong to feel anything for him. And Mamoru's nice, but I don't like him the way Usagi does."

"Anyone else?"

"No."

"You need to get out more."

"I've had enough time away from home on this trip to last me a lifetime! And you're changing the subject."

"On purpose. We're going through a high-stress event. These feelings might just be your - our - hormones talking."

Hyoga smiled at Rob's confirmation of his feelings for her. "We'll just have to find out whether it's our hormones or something deeper once we're safe." Hyoga handed her empty granola bar wrapper to Rob. "Shall we go?"

"Let's."



Niflheim
13:02 UTC, December 21, 2016


A blast of wind, colder than the icicles of Thule, blasted against Hyoga and Rob. They had no choice but to land, where they saw the tallest giant that either of them had ever seen.

"Niflheim is a place for Jötnar and dead Men, sons of Men! If you are here, you should be dead!"

"Can't argue with that kind of logic," Rob muttered.

"That was logic?" asked Hyoga in puzzlement.

"No. That's why we can't argue with it." Rob raised and projected his voice, the way he would if he was on stage. "Who art thou, who chooses to impede our progress toward the gate of Hel?"

"Some call me winter's father, though my name is Vindsval." He waved a hand in their direction, enveloping them again in cold and snow.

Rob held Hyoga closer, to share his body heat with her. "Be glad they don't have esper Skills, eh?"

"That's magic."

"Should we fight him?"

"He is winter's father. If we kill him here, or even knock him out, what will that do to winter on Earth?"

Vindsval laughed. "It would cause the protective blanket to begone from Midgard! Thou knowest what effect that would bring, does thou not?"

Rob nodded. "Too many lives would be affected for the worse, the least of which would be the lives of men."

"Forsooth!"

Rob and Hyoga looked at each other. That wasn't period Norse translated to English; it was more comic-book olde-tyme talk.

"Wait a minute. Do we really have to talk like that, or can we talk the way we're used to talking?"

"Son of Man, it has been decreed by Hel that within her realm the old ways are the best."

"I understand and thank thee for thine answer, Winter's Father. We shall endeavour to not speak in a manner that has been forbidden by the ruler of Niflheim."

"We understand each other, O son of Men."

"Then please understand this, O Father of Winter: We seek only to travel toward the gate of Hel, and then return from whence we came."

"I will aid your travel to the gate of Hel, O Sons of Men! I will deliver your frozen corpses to the Best of Hounds by mine own hands!" The wind and cold which had come and come came once again.

Hyoga held Rob tightly, shivering all the while. "Do something!"

"Why are you shivering? You're still in your angelic form!"

"I'm cold!"

Rob didn't think it was that cold. Mind you, Rob had arctic clothing and Hyoga did not. "Can you fly?"

"Not in these winds." Then Hyoga stared at Rob. "The snow..."

"What about the snow?"

"It's turned to water on your - thine - face."

"It's melting?"

"No. There's no frost on thine eyelashes, either."

"Hyoga... when I reached into the steam of creation to try to pull thee out of it, what wast thou thinking?"

"That thou wert risking thy life for me. Then, for a moment, I thought thou couldst do anything. That's when the steam abated."

"And that is when I was thinking that it was only water."

"What is this talk, O Sons of Men? These are poor choices for your epitaphs!"

Rob narrowed his eyes and looked straight at the face of Winter's Father. "If we are correct in what we are thinking, then they are no epitaphs at all." He then willed that the ice flying around himself and Hyoga stop in its flight.

And it was so.

"Thou art changed, O Son of Man. This is why Hel forbids your race from her realm! Now, fear winter before you die!"

"My family, my clan, my nation; we all live in winter for half the year. We fear thee not, Vindsval. We rejoice in thy presence!"

"You do?" Hyoga asked in amazement.

"Of course! If it wasn't so windy, I'd show you how to have fun throwing snowballs at each other."

"This activity, I must see," Vindsval proclaimed. And the winds tapered off to stillness, and the snow fell to the ground, and the skies cleared.

Rob smiled. "Okay, Now, watch closely. This is how you make a good snowball - not so tightly-packed that it will cause damage to the person who it is thrown at, and not so loosely-packed that it will fall apart in mid-flight..."

When looking back at this encounter in later years, Vindsval always remembered his amazement that these Sons of Men could teach him the joy of a snowball fight. Despite the displeasure of the ruler of Niflheim, Vindsval could not but call it time well spent.



On all sides saw I | Valkyries assemble,
Ready to ride | to the ranks of the gods;
Skuld bore the shield, | and Skogul rode next,
Guth, Hild, Gondul, | and Geirskogul.
Of Herjan's maidens | the list have ye heard,
Valkyries ready | to ride o'er the earth.
– "Voluspo", The Poetic Edda (translated by Henry Adams Bellows)

Niflheim
15:44 UTC, December 21, 2016


Rob and Hyoga made their way to the gates of Hel. As they arrived, they saw to their surprise that they were expected. They discovered an armed party had arrived from the direction that they wanted to travel.

Garm was howling his displeasure at the intrusion. "What business brings you here, O Choosers of the Slain?"

"We are here to escort these two away from the lands of the dead and back to Midgard, O Greatest of Hounds."

And Garm saw that it was so. Even so, ever-faithful Garm was not willing to let them leave without a fight... but even to one such as him, to pit strength against strength against six Valkyries would mean the final death. The battle must needs be a battle of truths. "The mortal man has journeyed away from Midgard, a journey that no Man is allowed to partake, O Choosers of the Slain."

Geirskogul intoned, "Look upon him again, O Greatest of Hounds. He journeyed at the behest of those who guide, on behalf of those who live. His was a hero's journey, and since the time that Midgard arose from the Ginnungagap heroes have had the privilege to do what others dare not." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

"The mortal man has trespassed in the realms of the dead, where no living mortal should walk, be he hero or not, O Choosers of the Slain."

Skogul intoned, "Look upon him again, O Greatest of Hounds. The mortal was called to these realms by the Entwiners of Fate themselves. It was his wyrd that he was to have walked this path." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

"The mortal man has willingly entered Niflheim, and he did not die in battle. His place is here, O Choosers of the Slain."

Hild intoned, "Look upon him again, O Greatest of Hounds. He has done us all a great service, and he has not died at all; in all fairness thou must not impede his path wherever it may lead." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

"Then the mortal must continue to walk the hero's path, else when he dies his soul will be taken by my mistress no matter the cause of death. I have looked upon him again three times, I will look upon him again no more. What of the half-made one, O Choosers of the Slain? Her actions were not those of the hero, as she used upon her quest no part of her being save the abilities to which she is accustomed."

Gondul intoned, "Look upon her again, O Greatest of Hounds. The heat of Muspelheim, the chill of Niflheim, and the waters of Hvergelmir have once again mingled their essences to form the creating steam, if only for the briefest of moments. The one called Hyoga is no longer half-formed, and all of her abilities are new to her." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

"Then the no-longer-half-made one is of us now, and must gain a Doublet and not leave this realm without call, O Choosers of the Slain."

Guth intoned, "Look upon her again, O Greatest of Hounds. She is born of Men, not of Gods. The Doublet System of Hild and Kami-sama must not be applied to her." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

"Then the no-longer-half-made one has no place in the Nine Worlds, and must be destroyed, O Choosers of the Slain."

Skuld intoned, "Look upon her again, O Greatest of Hounds. Her place is in Midgard, with the mortal who has done us all a great service; their fates have been entwined." And the magic of the music showed Garm that this was true.

And the magic of the music showed Rob that this was true.

And the magic of the music showed Hyoga that this was true.

"Then the mortal must acknowledge the no-longer-half-made one as family in the presence of other mortals before this day is out, else when she dies her soul will be taken by my mistress no matter the cause of death. I have looked upon her again three times, I will look upon her again no more. Do what thou wilt, O Entwiner of Fate who is a Chooser of the Slain." Garm put his head between his paws and, however grumpily, slept the sleep of the loyal hound.

Skuld took Rob and Hyoga's hands. "We must be away now, before He Who Howls awakens."

And it was so.



Yggdrasil
15:49 UTC, December 21, 2016


"I hate having to talk that way," Skuld continued after passing through the portal from Niflheim. "It's so old-fashioned! But Hel insists, and it's her realm." She let go of Rob and Hyoga.

Rob laughed. "And you're always at the cutting edge, aren't you, milady Skuld?" Then he turned to Skogul. "It was my wyrd, eh? I saw what you did there."

Skogul shrugged her shoulders. "Calling upon Wyrd - Urðr - Urd couldn't hurt."

"And I did hear your call." Urd smiled as she very carefully re-packed some fragile alchemical flasks into a very-strongly-bound box. "Do the two of you understand what Garm commanded of you?"

"I'm not sure, milady Urd."

Belldandy smiled. "Then I will give you the same tasks that Garm did. Rob, you must not sit by when a wrong is to be righted, when an innocent needs help, when injustice is ascending over justice. You must take action - and that action needs to be more than merely 'liking' a post on Facebook."

"I accept that burden gladly, milady Belldandy. And I don't even have a Facebook account."

She smiled. "And your first call to action is on behalf of your companion. Hyoga, you need to accept that, despite your celestial abilities, you are no longer simply a concentration of other people's metahuman powers given human form; you are a human, with a human need for companionship and family."

Hyoga put her arm around Rob's waist. "And I know without knowing how I know that Rob will be a part of that family."

"Even if Mii and Ami were to object, I would not. The two of us have almost literally been through Hel together, and you've been reborn in the process. As far as I'm concerned, you already are a part of my family, Hyoga." Rob drew her into an embrace. "We'll need to see how you fit into our family, but you'll have a place of some sort there."

Skuld turned away. "Tell me when they're gone, okay?"



Blossom Apartments, Ottawa, ON, Canada
15:52 UTC (10:52 AM local), December 21, 2016


"I could sleep the entire day away," Rob said as he fell into his own bed from the portal from Yggdrasil.

"So could I," replied Hyoga, immediately beside him. "But I don't want to sleep." She made no move to get out of bed.

"Hyoga... We really shouldn't."

"I know. Even if it would be the best Christmas present ever." She sat up in bed. "Remember, I'm human now; what the Book of Enoch says about that doesn't apply any more, if that is what I feel for you. Wait, did you promise Mii that she would be the first of the women here to share your bed that way?"

Rob thought carefully for a long moment. "No. What I promised her was that I would share her bed the day after her eighteenth birthday, and I made the same promise to Ami. What I'm thinking is that the two of us shouldn't do anything until after my fiancées know."

"And approve. You're right, of course."

"C'mon, sleepyhead. Out of bed."

"Are you talking to me or to yourself?"

"Both of us. We have to tell everyone else that you're part of my family now, remember?"

"And you have a new ability to explore."

Rob grinned. "I think we both do. Come on, let's go get some lunch."
--
Rob Kelk

Sticks and stones can break your bones,
But words can break your heart.
- unknown
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